Ministerial workout

In 1979, then-agriculture minister Yiannis Boutos made a trip to Bulgaria, which was then ruled with an iron fist by its last communist leader, Todor Zhivkov. Among other things, Boutos was impressed by the fact that Zhivkov used to make his ministers get up at six in the morning for a 30-minute workout before cabinet meetings. On hearing the story, a shocked minister of commerce Yiannis Varvitsiotis said, «under no circumstances tell that to [Constantine] Karamanlis, for he just might do the same to us.» It was Karamanlis’s decision to govern with an iron fist that enabled him to overcome big problems such as a wretched economy, record-high inflation and the second oil crisis. As late as 1980, when Karamanlis was elected President of Greece, most of the ministers would still refer to him as «the beast.» Of course, that was then. But it would do no harm if the current premier imposed more stringent discipline and tighter deadlines on his ministers, and demanded swift implementation of cabinet decisions. Now that Costas Karamanlis has completed a first round of contacts with business people and labor union representatives, he should have no doubts about the government’s slow pace. As Drakoulis Foudoukakos, the chairman of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, recently put it: «Your policy, Prime Minister, is correct, but the government is moving too slowly.» The conservative prime minister must push ahead with policies where there is more than one minister involved. Personal rivalries and lack of communication are causing too many delays. Karamanlis has the power to appoint ministers, so he also has the power to fire them if they don’t do their jobs properly.

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